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Archive for Friday, May 12, 2006

Scientist indicted on fraud charges

May 12, 2006

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— Prosecutors indicted disgraced cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk today on fraud and bioethics law violations linked to faked stem cell research, officials said.

Five members of Hwang's research team were indicted on the same charges, prosecution official Lee In-kyu said in a nationally televised news conference. He said they wouldn't be detained, but did not elaborate.

Hwang was hailed worldwide as a stem cell pioneer and treated as a national hero until investigations late last year showed that he had fabricated key data in two papers he published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005.

The scientist had claimed that he created the world's first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them. Those claims had offered hope of new treatments for millions of patients suffering from paralysis and debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The journal has since retracted both articles.

He made a public apology but was later fired from his post as a professor at Seoul National University's veterinary department and the government conducted a probe into his finances.

Auditors said in February that it was unclear how Hwang spent $2.6 million he received in government funds and private donations.

Through last year, Hwang received $33 million in government funds for his research as well as $6.4 million in private donations, the audit board said.

Hwang acknowledged he inflated data, but accused other researchers of deceiving him with falsified research results.

Hwang maintains he has the technology to do what he claimed. But South Korea's Health Ministry withdrew his research license, preventing him from cloning human embryos or receiving eggs for such work.

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